The Canadian Guitar Quartet plays the Sid Williams Theatre Jan. 25.

The Canadian Guitar Quartet plays the Sid Williams Theatre Jan. 25.

Canadian Guitar Quartet on Sid Williams stage Jan. 25

Mark Allan

Special to The Record

You need to pay attention to get the most out of listening to a guitar quartet.

And when you’re a member of the critically acclaimed Canadian Guitar Quartet, you absolutely must listen to each other, says Julien Bisaillon.

He, Louis Trepanier, Bruno Roussel and Renaud Côté-Giguère will perform Jan. 25 at the Sid Williams Theatre.

In an interview, Bisaillon says the tradition began in the 1950s with the Romero Guitar Quartet, four members of a Spanish family known as the Royal Family of the Guitar.

“We’re trying to extend the repertoire and make our mark on that tradition,” he adds. “We try with the Canadian Guitar Quartet to present new music.”

The CGQ still plays in the classical music tradition, meaning that while the foursome often uses original arrangements, their music is not improvised.

“Our instruments are four classical guitars. We don’t play steel strings. All four of us, we play the same instrument with the same range of sound.”

How, then, does the foursome vary its sound and keep the music interesting?

“The challenge is that, at any given point in a piece of music, we will be either solo or accompaniment to the others. We always have to be aware of our role and make sure the melodies are clear, and making sure we listen to each other very carefully so that the balance is just right.”

That doesn’t happen by chance.

“Every moment of every concert we have to be aware of what is happening around us. There’s no electronic tweaking. There’s no sound engineer on the console when we play, so we have to be aware of  the mix that we are creating.”

The magic of the quartet, Bisaillon explains, is how the musicians play off each other.

“If you come to the concert, you will see that sometimes in a piece we can exchange roles 50 times. It moves around quite a bit.”

So does the quartet.

In two major Western tours, (the first was in October), it is performing in 29 B.C. and Alberta communities, including some small and isolated ones.

In many concerts in North and South America since its 1999 inception, the quartet has received standing ovations and rave reviews.

The CGQ has appeared with orchestras across Canada, and has recorded three critically acclaimed CDs.

The program at the Sid will include some well-known classical pieces such as the William Tell Overture by Rossini and Danse Macabre by Saint Saëns.

“We will also mix that with original compositions that have been written for the quartet in the past 20 years of the ensemble. Those pieces sometimes have Latin influences, and we always try to present music that is accessible to the audience, that people will enjoy listening to again or will discover for the first time.”

The Canadian Guitar Quartet performs Jan. 25 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay. The 2016–2017 Blue Circle Series is proudly presented by Odlum Brown Limited. For concert details and tickets, visit, phone 250-338-2430 or visit 442 Cliffe Ave.